Abstract Expressionism, first developed in the 1940s, was the first specifically American movement to achieve international influence and put New York City at the center of the western art world. In an almost immediate reaction, a group of painters began reintroducing the figure into this high-energy postwar movement.
The Expressionist Figure examines some of the leading artists of the time, including important women painters. The exhibition includes Bay Area artists like Deborah Remington (who co-founded the legendary Six Gallery in San Francisco), and the leading feminist painter of the late 20th century, Nancy Spero. During a self-imposed exile to Paris, Spero completed the important series the Black Paintings, and established herself as one of the important social and political artists of her time.
Other notable artists include Mary Abbott (a contemporary and close associate of Willem DeKooning and Milton Avery), whose career was influenced by early 20th-century German Expressionists and Color Field painting of the 1950s. Bob Thompson’s artistic goal was to reinterpret themes and subjects from the Old Masters. By synthesizing Baroque and Renaissance masterpieces with the jazz-influenced Abstract Expressionist movement, Thompson made art of the past more relevant for contemporary – and particularly, African-American – audiences.
While the exhibition borrows from important collections in the U. S., The Expressionist Figure also showcases important works from the collection of the KIA by Richard Diebenkorn, Hughie Lee-Smith, David Park, Lester Johnson, and Charles Alston. The exhibition was curated by Fari Nzinga and Don Desmett.